Scholarly journals and newspapers in the Age of the Enlightenment

FundingUnion of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities
Project term01/07/2011 – 31/12/2025
Project partnersGöttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities  (project management and coordination)
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
Leipzig University Library
Göttingen State and University Library
ContactHead of Munich department:
Dr. Claudia Fabian

Munich staff:
Dr. Maja Eilhammer, Gertrud Friedl, Veronika Hausler M. A., Sylvia Memmleb M. A.

The long-term research project "Scholarly Journals and Newspapers in the Age of Enlightenment" ("Gelehrte Journale und Zeitungen der Aufklärung", GJZ 18) aims to digitize, index and analyse main representatives of German-language research periodicals of the 18th century, as well as visualise the papers' eminent role in the emergence of the "enlightened scientific community" and its structures.

Historical background

Beginning in 1682, a tradition of ephemerides began to develop in the German-speaking world, two decades after scholarly papers had appeared, almost simultaneously, in France, England, and Italy. Within a very short time, they firmly established themselves on the publishing market, and by the end of the 18th century, up to 1,000 scholarly journals and newspapers had been founded – ranging from short-lived one-man projects to major journals published for several decades.

Containing advertisements, descriptions and reviews of new books, reports about scientific discoveries and projects, and news from scholars and scholarly institutions, they informed readers about nearly everything that took place in the world of academic and popular knowledge. At the height of the Enlightenment, scholarly journals became the focal point of scientific discussion, and the predominant tool for gaining, retaining and distributing academic as well as popular knowledge. As the news was published immediately and was widely accessible, the journals allowed not only scholars to participate in the scientific discourse of the time, but also anyone sufficiently educated to engage in such debates.

Enlightenment's predominant goal, the rational and objective explanation of virtually all phenomena of human perception and experience, was translated and reflected via this medium. It is no coincidence, therefore, that Immanuel Kant's famous essay "Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?" was first published in 1784 in one of the most prominent scholarly newspapers of the late 18th century, "Berlinische Monatsschrift".

Scientific objective and database

The project focuses on interdisciplinary ephemerides, which consider humanities and social sciences as well as natural sciences, and contain original contributions, book reviews, and scholarly news as well as all facets of critique.

As the selection of journals to be analysed and indexed takes into consideration geographical and confessional aspects, the project is carried out in Göttingen, Leipzig and Munich, each of these sites representing in its own way a center of the German Enlightenment. The Göttingen Academy of Sciences cooperates with the State and University Library of Lower Saxony in Göttingen, the University Library in Leipzig and the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich. With the inclusion of data from two previous projects, by 2025 the research database will eventually provide access to 323 periodicals (ca. 2,775 volumes and ca. 1,260,000 pages), thus uniting the research and indexing work of five decades.

Instead of relying on OCR-based textual indexing, GJZ 18 pursues content analysis in breadth and depth, providing research with a yet-unexplored pool of bibliographical, personal and factual information about all areas and phenomena of the 18th century culture of knowledge. Editing comprises descriptive cataloguing as well as subject cataloguing of every article of the journals, the latter using controlled vocabulary, free terms, and classification via a contemporary classification system.

The results of the content analysis are made available via a research database. The GJZ 18 database offers different search approaches, e.g. for specific people, works or scientific subjects. The articles can be analysed via dynamically generated statistics, sorted in time frames and/or scientific topics and its results visualized via integrated evaluation tools. Data include linkage to the digitized journal articles and to the digital images of the reviewed books and publications. The database provides an interface to the Electronic Journals Library (EZB) and the bibliographies of books printed in the German-speaking countries of the 17th and 18th centuries (VD 17, VD 18). With long-term data storage, high availability, and data management in mind, the entries are generated via WinIBW software and embedded in the library network GBV.

The database's detailed content analysis offers information on how academic trends at the time are reflected in journals, and in what way the journals themselves through selective information and medial accompaniment of scholarly disputes influenced the politics of science. The data also provide information about publications that attracted the attention of contemporaries, but are mostly forgotten today, as well as those works which never succeeded in being published. Of particular interest for research in the history of science is, furthermore, the development of rules for reviewing publications and, concerning gender studies, the role of women in the Republic of Letters. The project GJZ 18 offers the possibility of deepening, expanding and revising our knowledge of the development of science during the era of Enlightenment, and moreover, of the development of an "enlightened" society.

"Scholarly Journals and Newspapers in the Age of Enlightenment" at present is the most extensive data acquisition project of periodicals of the Enlightenment, transferring scientific content of the 18th century into modern data structures.

Website of the project
Website of the project on the website ot the academy